Something happened today that’s causing me considerable mental anguish. Perhaps you will help and might offer some advice.
This morning, I went shopping at the local Costco. While in the parking lot, I noticed a man loading his SUV with several boxes. He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. Next, he put the wallet on the top of his vehicle, and then proceeded to load remainder of the cargo.
Just as I walked past, the man got into his Hummer, started the engine, and then began to drive away. The man’s wallet tumbled off the top of his car and landed on the pavement, right at my feet. I picked the wallet up and tried to flag the man down. However, he drove away too quickly and I wasn’t able to get his attention.
However, I did notice something quite interesting. The Hummer had a “TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT” bumper sticker on one side and an NRA decal on the other. The car sped away as I was yelling for him to stop.
There was only one thing I could do. I looked inside the wallet and found the man’s ID, along with his home address. He also had several business cards which listed his phone number. Also, to my astonishment, I found $870 in cash stuffed inside the wallet.
So, now my dilemma is this. Perhaps you can advise:
Should I fire the whole wad of cash tonight on LSU +3, or use it to pay some bills?
Writer’s Note: Most of this story is purely fictional. However, I did shop at Costco today.
You’re looking at one of the last photos ever taken of James Foley.
He was a war correspondent who reported on the Syrian Civil War.
On August 19, 2014, some 44 days after being captured and taken into captivity by ISIS, he was forced to his knees at an undisclosed location in the desert. An evil man wrapped in a black turban wielded a mighty sword, lifted his instrument of death towards a gorgeous blue sky, and then thrust the blade violently downward, instantly severing off the head of an American.
He was a reporter for The Oakland Post, who regularly covered events within the African-American community. Bailey was highly-respected by peers and readers alike for his tireless work ethic. He was particularly adept at uncovering local corruption and was then working on a story that was particularly sensitive to people known for violence.
On August 2, 2007, Bailey was walking from his apartment to work, just as he did every morning. While strolling up 14th Street, a lone gunman wearing black clothing and a ski mask approached Bailey and blasted three bullets into his body, which killed the journalist instantly.
She was a correspondent with Time magazine assigned to the war in Chechnya.
Elbaum worked as a photojournalist. She captured the horrors of that terrible failed war for independence in the breakaway state of Chechnya. Elbaum was particularly remarkable for her courage, not just a willingness to risk her life in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, but also because she was one of the few female journalists daily in the line of fire.
She paid the ultimate price to bring us news, sending back images that most of us barely gave a glance at, perhaps only for a few fleeting seconds while parsing through an old issue of Time while waiting in a doctor’s office. We don’t think much of the dangers and sacrifices it took to bring us the things we read and see. We’re oblivious to those risks taken by the brave.
He wrote from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
On April 3, 2003, Kelly was traveling in a Humvee along with American troops dispatched to a war zone in Iraq. The vehicle hit a land mine, and exploded into flames, killing everyone trapped inside — including Kelly. Thus, he became the first journalist who was killed in Iraq.
Michael Kelly was 46. He left behind a wife and two children. [READ MORE HERE]
You’re looking at the wall of the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial, in Washington, DC. This is just a partial collection of members of the media who have been killed doing their jobs.
Indeed, this could be a much longer article. In fact, it could stretch on and on with hundreds of thousands of words. In all, a total of 2,291 writers, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other members of the media have been killed in the line of duty.
Two-thousand, two-hundred,, ninety-one. Let that figure sink in.
The 2,291 gave their lives largely out of insatiable curiosities to which we — the readers and viewers — were the ungrateful beneficiaries. Rarely thanked, but so often criticized, they trekked into zones where others dared not to travel. They asked questions others dared not to ask. They took photo and video of events that were not supposed to be seen.
The least one might expect for this work and those who do their best follow in their hollowed footsteps is — a little respect.
You’re looking at the screen shot of the tweet that was sent out yesterday by the President of the United States.
He called the mainstream news media, “the enemy of the American People!”
I have received a fair amount of criticism lately for my harsh words and many of the brutal things I’ve said about President Trump. I recognize that my actions and use of language is not suited for all tastes. However, as a regular consumer of daily news and someone who has known and worked with a great many dedicated members of the media, I can’t help but be profoundly disturbed by the events I’m witnessing. I can’t help but get emotional about such a grotesque lack of respect and dignity, by the President, no less.
Where’s your outrage? Where’s your sense of decency?
Today’s my 55th birthday. Okay, that was yesterday. My 56th birthday is 364 days from now.
Gee, that makes me sound old as fuck.
Save the sentimentality, people, though I appreciate the spirit in which it’s intended. Birthdays don’t mean much to me. It’s just another day. 5-5 just another number. However, this does seem like a good occasion to share some personal stuff with readers.
First, a short commercial message. I’m asking for money. Yes, money — as in please make a donation. I accept PayPal. There’s an icon on the upper right-hand side of the screen. Please click that square and be generous.
When I embarked on this (almost) daily blog four years ago, I promised I’d write whatever popped into my head as often as time permitted — and those thoughts would be unfiltered. But I also made an agreement that I would not allow this website to cost me any money. I hired a terrific webmaster, Ernst-Dieter Martin, who should take a bow (see his picture on the Emeritus Section, along with a link to his web services). He’s been with me since Day One and makes sure the site stays up and is free of cyber attacks. I haven’t paid the webmaster in a while. So, I’d like to send some cash his way. So, if you can send $10, $20, or $10,000 — he (and I) would appreciate it. Thank you for doing whatever you can.
Now, on to my confessional.
There’s no such thing as normal. We’re expected to be circles and squares. Reality is, we’re all polygons, with multiple sides. Here’s 55 things you probably didn’t know about me:
1. I was born in Dallas, Texas on February 6, 1962. The most famous person also born that exact same day and year is Axl Rose — the lead singer for Guns and Roses.
2. My parents divorced when I was 2. My father spent most of his professional career as an air traffic controller. He was fired by President Ronald Reagan in the infamous PATCO strike of 1982. My mother worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company most of her life.
3. While growing up, I lived in Dallas, Chicago, and Albuquerque. I changed schools five times between the grades of 1-6. Each time we moved, I had to make new friends. That probably made more into an outgoing person.
4. I had speaking and singing roles in all four of my high school musicals. My senior year, I had the lead role in “Bye Bye Birdie.” Play the guitar badly. I play the piano worse. Actually, I don’t play the piano at all. If I have a great personal regret, it’s that I never learned the piano.
5. My junior year, I got expelled from high school for drinking alcohol and had to go to an alternative school for troublemakers. Nonetheless, I was elected Senior Class President the following year.
6. I’ve never done illegal drugs of any kind, including smoking marijuana.
7. I earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas system, but dropped out of a Masters Degree program after one year.
8. Right out of college, I tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer, but was rejected for flight school because I’m colorblind. I have what’s called a red-green deficiency, which is the most common form of color blindness. About 3 percent of all people have this vision defect, which predominantly afflicts males.
9. I’m probably one of the very few people who was in close proximity to both the Kennedy Assassination and the events of 9/11. When I was nearly 2, we lived a few miles from where Kennedy was shot. 39 years later, I lived across the street from the Pentagon, which was struck by an airliner and exploded.
10. I hate mushrooms.
11. I don’t like making small talk. I like discussing serious subjects that matter.
12. My favorite actor is Marlon Brando. My favorite actress is Isabella Rosellini.
13. My spiritual mentor is the late Christopher Hitchens.
14. I am embarrassingly ignorant in math and science. I’m ashamed about this, so I’m trying to catch up and learn more, especially about science.
15. I was born into Roman Catholicism and even attended Catholic school for a time. However, I’ve been an Atheist since about the age of 25. Despite this, I still once joined the Knights of Columbus.
16. I ran for city council once. I finished third in a four-candidate race. Just imagine how shitty a candidate the fourth-place finisher was.
17. I’m passionate about animal rights and environmental protections.
18. I despise flair bartenders. I think they should be banned, imprisoned, or shot depending on how fancy they get.
19. I am trying to become a vegetarian. Trouble is, most veggie food really sucks.
20. I made my first bet at the age of 8, losing $1 on Super Bowl V. I’ve been gambling ever since.
21. Both of my paternal grandparents were deaf. My grandfather, an immigrant from Northern Italy, once played minor league baseball and pitched an exhibition game against Babe Ruth.
22. My grandfather’s name was shorted when he arrived at New York’s Ellis Island. His real name was DALLAVALLE, which roughly translated means, “from the valley.” He was born in Rabbi, Trentino (Italy). The name was shorted to DALLA.
23. My favorite brand of car is Citroen.
24. My favorite book is “The Power Broker,” the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction, by Robert Caro.
25. Except on very rare occasions, I do not read fiction.
26. I witnessed the 1989 Romanian Revolution first-hand.
27. I drink wine every day. My favorite wine is Gevrey Chambertin, from France. My favorite white wine is just about anything from the Alsace region of France.
28. My favorite movie is The Godfather. The best movie ever made was Schindler’s List.
29. My favorite sports team is whoever I’m betting on that day. Aside from gambling, my favorite sports teams are the New Orleans Saints, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Boston Bruins. I don’t have a favorite baseball team, except that I always cheer against the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox. I like to say when the Yankees play the Red Sox, I cheer for a rain out and a stadium collapse.
30. I’ve met and shaken hands with six out of the last nine U.S. Presidents, including Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.
31. I’ve met and spoken with Donald Trump four times.
32. I once sat in the senate office chair of Ted Kennedy.
33. I’ve been married to Marieta Dalla for 26 years.
34. My basic philosophy can best be summed up as follows: If Immanuel Kant, Robert Owen, Karl Marx, Lyndon B. Johnson, George Carlin, Van Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Cesar Chavez, and Sam Harris all had a secret love child — that would be me.
35. I refuse to eat fast food, unless it’s a matter of life or death, or I’m traveling through West Virginia, which is kinda’ the same thing.
36. I run 2 to 3 miles every day. I used to run 5 miles, but that was too much strain on the joints. The longest distance I’ve ever run at once was 12 miles. I have never competed in a 10K race or a marathon of any kind. My father, however, used to run marathons regularly and even competed up until he was 50.
37. The sound I cherish most is the sound of silence.
38. I like people. I also like being alone.
39. My greatest enjoyment is reading.
40. I do not believe in UFOs. I do not believe in superstition. I do not believe in astrology. I do not believe in faith-based healing or prayer. I do believe in inquiry and science.
41. I do not believe it is wrong to have tried and failed. My life is filled with failures.
42. No words offend me. None whatsoever. I have no regard for political correctness. The older I get, the less I care what other people think.
43. My favorite television shows at the moment are, in no particular order: PBS Frontline, American Experience, 60 Minutes, John Oliver, This is Us, Suits, StarTalk, and anything that’s news or political.
44. Celebrities aren’t particularly interesting to me. The people I admire most are those who rarely get praise, particularly medical caregivers and those who work with animals, especially solving animal abuse cases. I’m weak. I do not think I could do those jobs, so I really admire those who do.
45. The older I get, the less material possessions mean to me. So long as I have a laptop, and internet connection, and some wine — I’m good.
46. My preferred alcoholic drink is Johnny Walker Black, not only for taste but because it’s historically been the beverage of choice for Leftist revolutionaries. I also have a soft spot for Jameson.
47. I have no internal time clock. I can work or read or sleep anytime of day or night.
48. Despite being outgoing, I’m not into parties or social engagements, at all. I despise making meaningless talk.
49. I once ripped up an airline ticket, rented a car and drove from New Orleans to Las Vegas because Marieta found a wounded Ring-Necked Dove in the street and we didn’t want to leave it behind to die. True story.
50. I’m ridiculously fortunate to have wonderful family and friends, far better than I deserve.
51. If I could do my life all over again, I’d make many different choices and decisions. However, I would not change my essential belief systems. I’m proud of my beliefs and my path to a personal philosophy.
52. I’m still trying to decide what to do next and where to live the rest of my life. When I figure that out, I’ll likely write about it. Or, maybe I won’t.
53. Writing is easy. Editing is hard.
54. I plan on writing a book over the next six months. It’s a project that was shelved which I aspire returning to with fresh enthusiasm.
55. My first World Series of Poker was in 1985. Since then, I’ve been to most of them. However, I have probably worked my last WSOP.
Sure, there’s the misery of the preamble, that painful period of time leading to a ballistic blow up. That’s not fun at all. However, doing a video rant is sort of like engaging what psychiatrist Arthur Janov coined as “Primal Scream Therapy.” Janov charged his clients, which included many celebrities, hundreds if not thousands of dollars per hour to express their deepest emotions. By contrast, making a video only requires a smartphone and the bravery to share one’s soul with the world.
I lost a wager on the Super Bowl yesterday. My wager appeared to be a lock, until seconds were left in the game. Then, the ice cream turned to shit. I won’t go into details. You can just watch this 8-minute clip for yourselves:
Alternative version of clip with reader comments can be seen on myFACEBOOK PAGE.
I watched yesterday’s Super Bowl at Russ Fox’s house, along with several friends. Russ always does a nice job of hosting. I have having a great time until the epic meltdown in the fourth quarter. After getting into arguments with people about how stupid the Atlanta coaching staff was, electing to have QB Matt Ryan pass the ball with only a few minutes left in the game and a lead that should have been insurmountable, I drove home and was prepared to call it a night. Another day. Another bad beat. Shit happens.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it might be a healthy outlet to make a video and let myself go. I’ve done this a few times in the past, and I’d call it a win-win. I have fun with the rants, and it sure feels good to let off some steam after losing thousands of dollars. Viewers also seem to enjoy the rants. I think every gambler can identify with the frustration of suffering a loss.
Here’s a similar video I made a few years ago after a devastating weekend where I lost almost every game. This video runs longer, but has quite a plenty of red meat [Viewer discretion advised]:
Rants can be fun, even on topics other than sports. Here’s a much longer video I made a few years ago in reaction to the absurd Las Vegas Review Journal “Readers Poll,” an abomination which includes the public’s picks on the top restaurants and entertainment in Las Vegas.
This video begins calmly and then as I read the readers poll picks, I begin to lose it. Enjoy!
Today’s a big day for me. I’ll run a few errands and be back later with a special announcement and a pledge drive.
In case you didn’t hear the big news earlier this week — the old miser dropped out of the stadium deal. That places the NFL’s Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas move in serious jeopardy.
So, what’s next?
Sheldon Adelson, the cantankerous fat cat who supposedly pledged $650 million from his vast fortune estimated at worth more than $32 billion — for him, what amounts to an old set of golf clubs sitting out in the garage — backed out of an agreement with Raiders’ owner Mark Davis and the City of Las Vegas, the third partner in the complicated business deal. Adelson’s involvement (actually, his money — nobody really cared much if he showed at the meetings) was essential to the construction of a new stadium, expected to be built near The Strip and could have been ready just in time for kickoff for the 2020 NFL regular season. Adelson’s role in the agreement was like the rich family uncle who everyone despises. But you don’t want to piss him off because there might be something in the will, later on. Without a new stadium, which required Uncle Adelson’s money to build, the Raiders deal was, and remains, dead.
Adelson cutting and running when his help (money) was needed most reveals a pettiness not even his most vocal critics would have expected. To be clear, Adelson’s financial contribution could have been a remarkable testament to his appreciation to this city and its people. For many, even his detractors, it might have transformed his spotty reputation from a casino mogul and political reactionary who’s not particularly well-liked by many in this community into something of a local civic hero. Yet, when time came to buy into the game and write out the marker, Adelson scootered away from the table faster than a busted gambler at one of his craps tables.
Now, the partnership is $650 million short. More pressing, the clock on the stadium deal is ticking and could go kaput, as early at March 1st. Somebody needs to step in and reach deep into their pockets — and fast. Reportedly, the MGM-Grand folks were open to stepping in and riding to the rescue as our savior. However, negotiations quickly collapsed. Unless David Copperfield can magically make a half a billion in cash appear, that deal’s not happening. Other powerful casino interests could be interested. But the last time anyone checked, Caesars Entertainment had $17.43 in the bank.
What’s puzzling to me is — why do football stadiums cost so much goddamned money? Does Las Vegas — or any other city where are schools desperately cry out for renovation and roads and bridges need improvement — really need to squander $2 billion on a mega-sports arena that hosts on the average just ten ball games a year? Assuming the Raiders were to remain in Las Vegas for the next 30 years, that would come out to about $6.7 million per game, and that doesn’t even include the cost of upkeep and maintenance.
Inexplicably, stadiums have become the new cathedrals of modern civilization. Sunday worship isn’t much of a church thing anymore. Now, it’s a football thing. What the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame were to the peasantry centuries ago, today the Superdome and Jerry’s World assume that same spiritual and financial ambiance. Indeed, churches have lots in common with the NFL. Both cause brain damage and then demand that taxpayers pay for everything.
Here’s my idea: Screw Adelson. Screw the MGM. Let’s slum it and build the stadium for $1.35 billion. Wouldn’t that work? Wouldn’t that be enough? Must every pro football stadium look like a giant UFO? Can’t we throw down some seeds, water the grass, construct a few grandstands, and enjoy the game? Didn’t natural-grass stadiums filled with real fans minus all the sky boxes and sponsor-driven hoopla work pretty damn well for six decades? Didn’t pro football become America’s true national pastime because games were played in authentic arenas like Lambeau Field, the Orange Bowl, and Yankee Stadium? Sure, no one wants to go back to the olden days of leather helmets. But can’t we forget about retractable roofs, faux rubber grass, and VIP sections?
How about this. Let’s offer to build the Raiders a new stadium for $1.35 billion. Two billion minus $650 million equals $1.35 billion. That’s the budget. We can tell Mark Davis — hey, you wanted a Tesla. We’re offering you a Buick. Take it or leave it. Right now, given that they call the Oakland Coliseum home, the Raiders are driving a shitbox. How to cut down on costs? Easy. Since Trump’s border wall with Mexico isn’t up yet, we can use cheap migrant labor. We’ll cut on the number of stalls in the ladies restrooms. They’re going to bitch they’re aren’t enough stalls, anyway. We can remove the escalators because most sports fans are fat and lazy. They need to exercise more. We can charge $15 for a beer and $30 for a parking spot. Oh wait — stadiums are doing that already.
An NFL stadium doesn’t need to resemble the Johnson Space Center. Yeah, I get that Las Vegas weather is hot as fuck much of the time and perhaps an enclosed facility may be necessary. But, the weather here isn’t any more uncomfortable than the steam baths of Miami or Jacksonville or Houston or the frigid weather in northern cities. If Bills and Bears fans can sit in the freezing cold in subzero temperatures and watch those shit teams, Las Vegas football fans should be able to risk a mild case of sunstroke. 250 miles to our south, the Phoenix Cardinals played in an outdoors stadium for nearly 20 years and there weren’t more than a handful of deaths, and pretty much all of those were from eating the nachos.
According to Forbes’ latest figures, the average NFL franchise is worth about $1.5 billion. For teams who also own their own stadium, the values are considerably higher. Assuming Mark Davis will own half of the new Las Vegas stadium, it follows that the value of the team would probably double and surpass the $2 billion mark. That should be anough money to live on for a while, even in the Bay Area. Besides, he sure as hell isn’t spending much money on haircuts.
If he still short on cash and needs a few bucks, given those figures and that level of collateral, Davis could probably get approved for a bank loan. If he needs a co-signer, then give me a call. Unlike Sheldon Adelson, I won’t back out of the deal. I’ll even throw in my old set of golf clubs.
In the Super Bowl, I’m betting $1,600. to win back $1,454. on the UNDER 59.
This is the highest betting total in Super Bowl history. Fifty championship games have been played since 1967, with some of the best offenses of all-time. Yet no betting total has ever been this high. All things considered, the value looks to be with the UNDER 59.
The public appears to be betting the OVER in droves. The total opened at 57.5 in many sports books (YMMV), then went up to 58. All around Las Vegas today (eve of the Super Bowl), there were lots of 58 and 58.5 numbers frozen in place. Many people I spoke with expected the betting public might continue to chisel the number steadily upward, but enough sharp money should have resisted the total going too much higher than where it’s stabilized over the past 12 days. When I suddenly saw a 59 flash at Red Rock (Stations) today, I pounced and made this a larger-than-average wager.
Of course, betting against a tidal wave is tricky. There’s some evidence this total could climb higher. In that case, I could be sitting on a stale number by tomorrow afternoon. This is always the risk on takes when betting as a contrarian. I’ll feel pretty awful if this total closes at 60 and I’m sitting here holding the shit basket.
There’s also some value in the UNDER 29.5 First Half Total. However, I’ll hope the extra 30 minute time frame will reduce variance (two halves at 29.5 each) and the ticket will get cashed. I did want to note the First Half Total does look to be equally as tempting.
For this ticket to lose, 60-plus points will need to be scored. That’s 30 points per team. Many Super Bowls have turned into routs, of course, which is always the danger here in the big game. If one team jumps to a big lead, the ball starts flying all over the field and crazy stuff happens. However, recent Super Bowl games have played at a more modest pace and points haven’t lit up the score board.
The intangible in this game should be the Patriots’ defense. If they come to play, it’s probably a win and easy cover and the UNDER cashes. I greatly respect Bill Belichick’s abilities as a head coach (that should go without saying, although his politics are fuck). But New England has also be a dreadful Super Bowl favorite under his reign, as the Patriots have failed to cover in most games. That brings up the old saying — Good teams win, but great teams cover. Remember that, Patriot fans.
I began posting NFL plays publicly on the internet about 20 years ago. I’ve posted thousands of plays over that long span. Since I’ve started writing on my own here at my own site, I’ve enjoyed 3 winning seasons and 1 losing season. This year, my winnings were pretty modest — just $1,384 in profit spread out over 17 weeks (or 13.8 percent in profit). Most of the winnings game from betting teaser wheels. I’ve not handicapped the NFL particularly well in recent years. However, I’ve somehow managed to still make money both in 2015 and 2016. There’s no pretending here. However, given all the talk and trash that’s floating out there (touts), I’m pretty proud of being ahead overall after thousands of NFL plays posted at my site.
Accordingly, I could rest on my mini-laurels and wrap up another winning season by betting small. It would be easy to run out the clock and declare victory. However, I won’t play it safe here. I’m risking the prospect of a losing season overall by wagering $1,600 on this game. Hence, I could end up in the red for the year (regarding posted plays here — not counted are hundreds of wagers such as halftimes and so forth which do not get posted because there’s no time). However, I really like this UNDER play and if it hits, I’ll end up $3,000 to the good for the season, which is a return of about 30 percent.
Best wishes to everyone. Thanks for reading.
SIDE NOTE: Look for my continuing series on “Gambling for a Living,” coming up next week. I have several more chapters to write, which will include a recap of this year’s NFL regular season.
A few days ago, an outspoken media personality who also happens to be an attention-starved right-wing extremist was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley, one of the most liberal institutions of higher learning in the United States.
Milo Yiannopoulos, an admitted protagonist-agitator, who’s best known for spiking the witch’s brew of noxious deceit oozing out of the sewer pipe called Breitbart.com, was to appear at the university on Wednesday. Given his toxic background as a provocateur personified by divisive opinions on gays, race, gender, and religion, protests were expected.
However, no one foresaw that a two-day riot would erupt, forcing university officials to capitulate to the angry mob which was comprised almost entirely of students and faculty. Accordingly, the invitation sent to Yiannopoulos was withdrawn, citing “safety concerns.” A swarm of media attention ensued to cover the controversy. Hence, someone who had previously been unknown to most Americans catapulted overnight to near the top of every social media platform. Largely anonymous aside from a few basement-dwelling gamers and conspiracy kooks, Yiannopoulos couldn’t have asked for more grandiose introduction to national prominence, unless his name popped up in lights on the marquis of “A Star is Born.”
Call this abomination what is was — not a victory for the left, but a counterproductive embarrassment and humiliating defeat for all progressives.
This is the latest sad chapter of a much longer and more troubling trend happening on many college campuses, which is the threat to free speech. Since the 1960’s, an era of innumerable Vietnam War protests, American colleges and universities have become increasingly liberalized — particularly in the social sciences. There are valid reasons for various departments to lean left. While conservatives tend to gravitate to business school, or study law, or medicine, liberals are drawn naturally to the arts and sciences (with exceptions, of course). I’d even go so far to argue that inquiry is, by design, an inherently liberal pursuit because it invariably calls the status quo and many of our conventional belief systems into question. And so, leftist activism has fertile traditions deeply rooted in academia. By extension, it’s easy to understand why youthful idealism would ignite on campuses like Berkeley with a combustible passion for many progressive causes.
Yet somewhere along the way, a long time after liberals won the right to protest and even spout off radical ideas, some of us devolved into what we’d once feared the most. Now, intimidation doesn’t come from authority figures, such as campus police or university administrators nor the surrounding communities. Bullying comes from within our own ranks. Fact is, free speech has been hijacked in recent years and the problem appears to be getting worse. Liberals in many areas, once arm-to-arm on the front lines of the free-speech and free-thought movement, now demand that dissenting voices be silenced, which is precisely what we’ve witnessed at Berkeley. By doing this, we are undermining the very foundation on which liberal free thought is based.
Let’s be clear. Colleges and universities should not be cradles. Instead, academic institutions should be mental minefields ready to blow up bad ideas in a moment’s notice. Bad ideas are best exposed by scrutinizing them and exposing them as such, not by heavy-handed censorship. Indeed, knowledge, skills, and perseverance must be put to the test. “College in an earlier time was supposed to be an uncomfortable, experience because growth is always a challenge,” Dr. Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College wrote recently. “Now, attending college involves “the pampering of students like customers.”
Education demands that we constantly push ourselves to new heights. It’s vital that we place odd people with seemingly strange ideas in front of the classroom and under the microscope so that we can bear witness and potentially learn. This is especially true for those with whom we disagree. It’s even more vital to subject ourselves to thoughts we might at first consider to be absurd, objectionable, and even obscene. All great ideas start out as blasphemy. Assuming we believe that facts will come out and truth prevails, the very worst thing that can happen to a bad idea or a flawed argument is intense scrutiny. Hence, assuming we’re convinced Yiannopoulos is something of a crackpot, his ideas should have been given the chance to be voiced If those ideas don’t stand up to the heat lamp of truth, they melt down.
This is even more profoundly important at a state university, in other words, a school that’s publicly funded. One might argue that private schools (and particularly religious-based institutions) have every right to limit free speech, if they so wish. They might even limit speakers and guests to those who conform strictly to the university’s codes and ideals. Public schools like Cal-Berkeley, however, are obligated to expose students to the widest possible spectrum of people and ideas. Sure, protesting such an event is fine. Silencing a speaker is not.
Years ago, my outlook on life changed when I attended a university lecture by writer Raymond Bonner, the famed New York Times foreign correspondent who broke many of the news stories which exposed the dark and dirty things happening in Latin America at the time, largely engineered by the Reagan Administration (illegally, we’d later discover). I went into that lecture thinking one way about the issues, and came out afterward as a changed person with very different attitudes about the world. Such is the power of inviting guest speakers and openly exchanging ideas. This is the purpose of higher education.
Some will argue, at times there are justifiable reasons to limit free speech, even on college campuses. The hate speech” victim card gets wrongly played. But these objections ring hollow and make the protesters seem petty. British author David Irving has written prolifically on World War II, yet is also infamously known as the world’s leading Holocaust denier. To many, he’d certainly qualify as a proponent of hate speech. Years ago, Irving toured the United States and spoke to students on several college campuses. It took some time, but eventually, his “research” was exposed as fallacious and he was openly discredited in a very public trial that took place in London. Had Irving not been given a university platform, he might have remained hidden on the outer fringes and made quite a nice living at the expense of those who suffered unspeakable horrors. Hence, subjecting Irving’s words and ideas to scrutiny became truth’s most powerful weapon.
From what I’ve seen of Milo Yiannopoulos, he can easily be dismissed as just another punk. There’s nothing remotely credible about any of his ideas, particularly on politics and society. He’s engaged in crude look-at-me tactics. He written and said outrageous things, purely to gain notoriety. Yet for all his pernicious pestilence, Yiannopoulos should have just as much right to speak and be heard at a public university as anyone else. Free speech means exactly what it says — the right to speak freely. That means without interruption nor intimidation.
Unless we all have it and defend its practice, none of us enjoys free speech. That’s the reminder we progressives must take away from the Cal-Berkeley embarrassment.
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Last night, Rep. Nancy Pelosi held a nationally-televised “Town Hall Meeting.”
Overnight television ratings were’t available at the time of this writing. However, one presumes the hour-long Q & A session with the House Minority Leader taking center stage probably drew a few million voters. It’s also a valid guess that just about everyone tuning in to watch Pelosi were Democratic loyalists, and/or voters repelled by President Trump. It’s highly doubtful that many independents or Republicans watched the telecast. I’d even go so far as to say the number of opinions swayed by Pelosi’s remarks during the town hall meeting could probably fit into a telephone booth, assuming there were still any phone booths around, which precisely makes my point.
This begs the question all Democrats should be asking, namely — what in the hell was Nancy Pelosi doing on that stage?
Incredibly, the Democrats never seem to learn the lessons of history, even when it’s a hard reality to face and a bitter pill to swallow. Despite Republicans offering a dreadfully-flawed candidate at the top of their party ticket stained by the highest negatives in American political history, Democrats still got whipped in the election — at every level. Republicans won the presidency, the House, the Senate, plus an overwhelming number of gubernatorial slots and state legislatures. Democrats, who spent just as much money nationally as the Republicans (arguably more, depending on metrics), were humiliated.
Democrat defeats weren’t due to spouting the wrong message. Not at all. On virtually every issue, Democrats enjoy the majority support. Do Americans favor raising the minimum wage? Check. Do Americans favor responsible gun legislation? Check. Do Americans believe in climate change? Check. Do Americans want to improve our national infrastructure? Check. Do Americans want to protect a woman’s right to chose? Check. On nearly every issue, the Democrat message wins the hearts and minds of most people. Accordingly, since the message wins the popularity contest (and by an overwhelming majority on some issues), the explanation for disproportionate losses must lie elsewhere (yes, gerrymandering has a lot to do with it).
Here’s a novel thought: Perhaps it’s the messenger.
Given the mass rebuke of Democratic candidates across the board, in all regions of the country, one might have expected plenty of heads to roll after the disaster. Certainly, it seemed reasonable to expect Democratic Party leadership to gracefully step aside and allow a younger, more energetic crowd with new ideas — not only about how to govern but how to campaign — to step forward and carry the progressive torch. But instead, Democrats gave virtually all its leaders a contract extension.
Using a sporting comparison, there’s a reason why the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars fired the entire coaching staff after the team finished 3-11 last season. Even though they’re all probably good and decent people, each talented and knowledgeable in his own right, the ax fell because coaches failed to accomplish their objectives. Not only did they fail to win, they also lost badly. Yet, Democrats continue to slumber blindly onward with the same impotent leadership, oblivious to how much of the country sees them.
One of the very first acts by Democrats who assembled in the new congress in early 2017 was to re-elect Nancy Pelosi to what amounts to the de facto face of the party, along with Chuck Schumer, her counterpart in the U.S. Senate. One might argue there’s justification for choosing Pelosi (and Schumer) and allowing them to continue in their leadership posts. After all, congressional staffs are immensely critical in the legislative process and it would be hard to argue there are better staffs than Pelosi’s and Schumer’s. There’s also long traditions in congress, which reward seniority. Political insurrections might happen in some elections, but they aren’t common on Capital Hill.
Yet, television and town halls require a completely different skill set than the wonkish acts of governance. If President Trump’s election victory teaches us anything — it’s that we’ve now rocketed into a completely new age of political marketing and showmanship. Voters aren’t interested much in policy details and studies, nor even facts. I know, that’s a frightening conclusion. But no once can refute it. Facts don’t matter. Instead, they want a circus. So, Democrats need to give it to them — wild tigers, elephants, trapeze artists, and even clowns. That’s how to create the Big Tent and win election victories.
Fortunately, Democrats have a number of outstanding ringmasters ready and eager to spread the progressive message. Instead of Nancy Pelosi, Democrats would have been advised to offer the town hall spot to Sen. Al Franken, or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, or even Sen. Cory Booker (despite his inexplicable vote against allowing pharmaceuticals into the United States from Canada, which angered many on the Left). Want to pick a better national spokesperson for the party then Pelosi? Here’s how to do that: Pick up the congressional phone book, open it up to any page, and point to any name. It’s that bad. It’s that dire.
To be fair, Pelosi is right on most issues that matter. She was way ahead of the rest of the country on civil rights. She’s also done admirable work in the past and can continue to be a political force. Yet, when picking a champion for change, it’s baffling why someone was selected who has such high negatives. Pelosi is the anti-populist. You know it’s “game over,” when Sen. Mitch McConnell is out-polling the Democratic Minority Leader in national polls. Why even bother holding a town hall if it’s going to be fronted by someone considered by a majority of voters to be a pariah? It’s self-defeating.
Still, the Democrats not only refuse to clean house. They won’t even look at themselves in the mirror. Even with what would seem to be overwhelming advantages coming up in the next election (2018) given the chaos we’ve witnessed in recent weeks, Democrats could very well blow it again unless some key lessons are learned from recent history.
Nancy Pelosi’s mystifying showing at a town hall meeting might not seem like a very big deal in the grander scheme of bigger issues. Yet the truth is, it’s yet another painful indication that Democrats remain completely oblivious to how they’re perceived and what’s going on across America.
I woke up this morning to the majesty of contrasts that is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, better known simply as “Red Rock Canyon.” Everything within sight, from the desert cactus to mountain pines, was covered in white snow.
Most Las Vegas visitors, and even many locals, may not know about the natural splendor nestled in the mountains due west of The Strip just a half-hour drive away. Red Rock is an oasis for the mind and a vacation for the soul. It seems light years apart from the fabricated latticework of 1.5 million people, continuing to crawl with an alarming expansion beyond the sustainable resources necessary to ensure a healthy balance between what we build and the natural world around it which cradles our city like a protective glove.
Red Rock is a vast “pause button,” ready to be hit any time, a temporary escape to a quiet place still mostly unspoiled by sprawling urbanization, except for a few roads and the occasional traffic sign. In a city blanketed with casinos, cookie-cutter tract homes, and look-a-like strip malls, Red Rock has become our common escape, even if just for a few fleeting seconds with an affectionate gaze in the westward direction of the snow-capped mountains. Like a seductive temptress, we long for our next encounter with beauty.
Note: Here’s a short article I wrote last year about my hike in the canyon, along with several photos. [CLICK HERE]
Sadly, each time I’ve driven into Red Rock in recent years, commercial development looks to be creeping closer and closer to the park. Now, when driving up Charleston Blvd., which eventually leads directly into the heart of Red Rock Canyon, it’s shocking and sad to see the extent to which homes and shopping centers have stretched to the valley’s outer boundaries and very nearly into the canyon area itself, which is now seriously threatened. Towards the north, specifically the Lone Mountain area, commercial and industrial development has been even more aggressive. Lone Mountain was once on the outer fringes of the west side of Las Vegas. Now, it’s been engulfed by a freeway, thousands of new homes, and a monochrome of dust and blowing debris which seems to swirl around constantly.
South of the Red Rock area, there’s a controversial proposal by developer Jim Rhodes to convert prime land currently occupied by a gypsum mine to construct more than 5,000 additional homes, which is likely to bring in another 10,000 cars and unforeseen disturbances to the area, such as noise and pollution. A city where air quality is marginal at best and often covered in a thick haze on bad days chokes on its own exhaust fumes.
A few nights ago, a meeting was held here in Las Vegas where many critical issues important to our region were discussed. I was stirred into action by the presentation of Justin Jones, who’s a board member of the organization known as Save Red Rock. I learned that this non-profit is fighting to protect one of Las Vega’s last natural resources, not just for us, but for future generations. Jones stated if we don’t take action now, it might be too late in the future. He also noted that big-money developers have filed a lawsuit against Save Red Rock, purely in an effort to silence opposition, thus squashing citizen advocacy and democracy. Fortunately, many people with the local community, Democrats and Republicans alike, are now speaking out and making their voices heard. But that might not be enough given the power of developers who look towards Red Rock as a potential piggy bank.
We aren’t opposed to responsible development. Indeed, there are plenty of attractive neighborhoods in our city where new homes can be built and new businesses can be created. That’s something every community needs to remain vibrant In fact, many established parts of Las Vegas are desperate for investment of this kind, and even offer generous tax incentives. So, why allow unbridled expansion into one of the most gorgeous areas of Southern Nevada, when so many other opportunities exist for local development and revitalization?
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit the website SAVEREDROCK.ORG. There’s also a petition you can sign for an upcoming public hearing with country commissioners (in February), which will show your support for protecting the natural majesty of this critically important and precious public recreation area. Consider signing the PETITION HERE.
Once Red Rock is gone, it’s lost forever. We must act now. Please help and also tell your friends and neighbors. We need your voice, your signature, your support, and most of all your action. Please do it now.